Mullins trio take on Abacadabras in high-class Matheson Hurdle

Willie Mullins fires three strong arrows at Leopardstown’s Matheson Hurdle.

County Hurdle winner and young pretender Saint Roi, the lightly-raced but highly-talented Saldier and the relatively unheralded Sharjah – bidding for a hat-trick in this race, having given Epatante most to do at Cheltenham in March – all present persuasive cases for Mullins on Tuesday.

Saint Roi seeks revenge on Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras following their meeting in the Morgiana Hurdle – when those connected to the JP McManus-owned five-year-old felt he was slightly unfortunate.

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins, who maintains his partnership on Sharjah, said: “You’d have to think Saint Roi was unlucky in the Morgiana ,and we’d like to think he can turn the tables on Abacadabras.

Abacadabras jumps the last clear in the Morgiana with Saint Roi (white cap) having plenty to do
Abacadabras jumps the last clear in the Morgiana with Saint Roi (white cap) having plenty to do (Niall Carson/PA)

“Saldier is obviously coming back from a long lay-off, but we’ve got plenty of work into him. He still falls into the ‘could be anything’ category, so I wouldn’t discount him in any way, shape or form.

“Sharjah has won this for the last two years. The Flat campaign didn’t go to plan with him, so we’ve given him a break and freshened him up – and I’m delighted to be riding him again.

“Hopefully we can go for the hat-trick, but it might be difficult.”

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As ever Elliott provides stiff opposition with Abacadabras, who pushed Shishkin close at the Cheltenham Festival, looking to build on his Morgiana win.

“Some of the Grade Ones at Leopardstown have attracted some great line-ups, and this is another quality race – it’s far more than just a rematch between Abacadabras and Saint Roi from Punchestown,” Elliott told Betfair.

“I was obviously delighted with Abacadabras at Punchestown, where I thought he did well to win because the race did not go to plan for him.

“He didn’t jump well and found himself in front too soon – but he was still able to win, which is a good sign.

“He is going to switch back to better ground here – which will suit him – and he’s been in very good shape since Punchestown, so I’m expecting a good run.

“I think he is a proper Grade One hurdler at this trip and I think if he runs up to his best he will be right there at the finish.”

Elliott also runs the nine-year-old Petit Mouchoir – winner of the race four years ago -who has his first start for the yard since leaving Henry de Bromhead.

Elliott said: “Petit Mouchoir has been a regular in these races for quite a few seasons.

“We bought him at the sales in the autumn, and he’s been given plenty of time to settle in and acclimatise to the routine here and he looks to be in good shape.

“I do think that he will improve for this run – and he is taking on some top class sorts – so I’d be hoping for a respectable showing, and I know there will be more to come from him following this run.”

Aspire Tower was very impressive on his comeback at Down Royal
Aspire Tower was very impressive on his comeback at Down Royal (Brian Lawless/PA)

De Bromhead is represented by Aspire Tower, who is only four but comfortably beat Abacadabras at Down Royal early in the season.

“He ran really well in Down Royal and he’s a horse with a very exciting future,” said his jockey Rachael Blackmore.

“Things went all wrong for him in Cheltenham last year (in the Triumph), but he still managed to get up the hill in second.

“He’s a great one to have in the yard.”

Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge and Gearoid O’Loughlin’s Coeur Sublime complete the field.

Mullins pair among six on course for Morgiana

Willie Mullins’ pair of Saint Roi and Saldier head six in contention for the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

Saint Roi has won three of his four starts for Mullins to date, signing off last term with an impressive County Hurdle success at Cheltenham before returning with a bloodless five-and-a-half-length verdict in a Tipperary Grade Three.

While the five-year-old arrives with the benefit of a run, stablemate Saldier would be having his first start on Sunday since winning this Grade One event last November.

The six-year-old shocked odds-on favourite and fellow Mullins inmate Klassical Dream 12 months ago, but did not run again after suffering a setback.

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Mullins has won the last nine renewals of the race. His chief rival this time appears to be Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras, who suffered a surprise reverse at the hands of Aspire Tower on his return in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal last month.

The winner’s stablemate Jason The Militant was back in third in that Grade Two event, and trainer Henry de Bromhead is planning to give him a chance at the top level this weekend.

He said: “I’d say we’ll have a go at the Morgiana this week. It’s a little bit quicker back than I normally would, but he’s tough.

“Paul (Townend) said he felt he might have started to race a little bit sooner than he ideally wanted to, and he said he took a good blow after the last (at Down Royal). I thought with his Flat run at Fairyhouse when he won, that would have had him spot on, but I’d left him a little bit short.

“He will come on for his run the other day. He’s a good horse, so it will be interesting to see him in the Morgiana.”

Jessica Harrington’s three-time Grade One winner Supasundae and the Gearoid O’Loughlin-trained Coeur Sublime complete the possibles.

Latest Exhibition is one of nine entries for the Grade Two Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

A Grade One scorer over hurdles, he made a winning chase bow for Paul Nolan at this track last month, but he could face some stiff opposition this time.

Elliott has Galway first and second Pencilfulloflead and Coko Beach, plus Run Wild Fred, while Joseph O’Brien’s Home By The Lee hit the target in Grade Three company last time.

Tom Mullins’ Court Maid is another to note after two impressive chase victories.